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Wing Chun Kuen Kung Fu
written by Sifu Hian Qui Kho
regular contributing writer for Martial Arts Illustrated magazine
(Chinese names given first are spelt in phonetic cantonese as in every page of this web site. This is consistent with the original teaching of the system by the early ancestors from Fut Sarn(Foshan) in Kwang Tung province where cantonese is spoken and the dialect used by Ip Man himself. Names following in brackets are more official spellings).


The legend told by Great Grandmaster Ip Man placed the setting in the reign of the Emperor Hong Hay (Kang Hsi 1662-1723). The buddhist nun Ng Mui was walking in the coungtryside when she came upon a fight between a crane and a snake. She was intrigued by how well the crane was defending herself from the strikes of the snake by simultaneously using her wings to block and her long pointed beak in counterattacks. Contrary to the Siu Lum styles of the time in mimicking the animal movements, Ng Mui was inspired by the underlying concept of combat of what she saw and devised her system using simple moves, by judicious use of energy, by avoiding the use of strength against strength and applying techniques rather than brute force.

One day when Ng Mui decended from White Crane Temple on the slopes of Mount Dai Leung, also known as Mount Chai Har, on the border between the provinces of Say Chuen ( Szechuan) and Wun Narm (Yunnan), she visited a stall selling bean curd. She noticed that the young girl which she knew well who was manning the stall was particularly dejected that day. On inquiring, she found that the local warlord intended to marry her, by force if necessary. She was already spoken for to a man in Gong Dung (Kwangtung). The young girl's name was Yim Wing Chun who has fled to this western part of China with her father, Yim Yee, from their home in Gong Dung in the south-east. Feeling sympathy for the young Wing Chun, the nun decided to help her and took her back to White Crane Temple. For three years the nun Ng Mui taught her one and only student the new kung fu style she just created. Wing Chun returned to the village and confronted the warlord with a challenge and defeated him. She married her lover, Leung Bok Chau who was himself an accomplished pugilist as well. Impressed by the effectiveness of his wife's newly acquired fighting skill he named her style 'Wing Chun', in her honour, although the style was created by the nun Ng Mui.

Yim Wing Chun taught her new style to her husband Leung Bok Chau. It was then taught to Leung Lan Kwai, a herbal physician, who also passed it on to Wong Wah Bo, an actor on the Red Boat. The Red Boat carried the operatic troupe along the waterways to perform operas in the towns and villages along the banks. On the boat there was a poler called Leung Yee Dai whose job was to guide the boat with his pole. Leung Yee Dai has acquired some skill in the use of the pole for combat. These two found admiration for each other's fighting skill.  Wing Chun was passed on to Leung Yee Dai by Wong Wah Bo who in turn acquired the pole techniques which was eventually incorporated into the Wing Chun system. In the town of Fut Sarn lived a famous physician, well cultured and gentle. His name was Leung Jarn. He was already a skilful fighter but was attracted by Wing Chun's practical skills, its simplicity and its no-nonsense combat approach. He sought out Leung Yee Dai and persuaded him to teach him Wing Chun.. With his newly acquired martial skill he fought off many challengers from the other martial arts. Before long he was nick-named  'Wing Chun Boxing Champion'.

One of the students Leung Jarn took in was Chan Wah Shun, who was also nick-named 'Money Changer Wah' for being in the business of changing gold and silver bullion to ordinary brass coins for every day retail transactions. He took in 16 students and the last one was a very young boy from a wealthy family with a single mind to learn Wing Chun. His name was Ip Man. Among his kung fu brothers were Ng Chung So, Lui Yui Chai, Ng Siu Lo and others.


By the time Ip Man was twelve years old his teacher Chan Wah Shun passed away but not before he made his senior student Ng Chung So promised to complete the teaching of Wing Chun to Ip Man. In 1908, at the age of fifteen, he was sponsored by a relative to study in St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong. There, he was told about a very accomplished martial artist who turned out to be Leung Bik, one of the sons of Leung Jarn. Leung Bik was an intelligent and educated person who seemed to teach Wing Chun to Ip Man which differed from that of Chan Wah Shun who was less educated and of a heavier built. From this point onwards, Ip Man's Wing Chun became more intelligently performed and more subtle.

During the Japanese occupation of China in 1937 to 1945 he fulfilled his patriotic duties against the invaders of his country. Between 1941 to 1943 he taught his first students at the age of fifty years old due to the difficult circumstances during the Japanese occupation. He also took on a student in 1948 called Pang Nam who pleaded with Ip Man to teach him Wing Chun and the instructions took place at Jung Yee Athletic Association in Fut Sarn. For his work with the police and army in the previous government he was obliged to leave his country when the Communist Chinese liberated China in 1949.

At the age of fifty-six Ip Man arrived in Hong Kong after spending a few months in Macao. In July, 1950 he started his first Wing Chun class in Hong Kong at the Restaurant Trade Association in Dai Nam Street. The first eight students were Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu, Tsui Sheung Tin, Yip Bo Ching, Chiu Wun, Lee Yun Wing, Law Bing and Man Siu Hung. Some of the students who joined at various later periods were Wong Shun Leung, Wong Kiu in 1953-54; Lee Kam Sing, Kan Wah Jeet (Victor Kan), Lo Man Kam, Cheung Cheuk Hing (William Cheung) in 1954-55; Lee Siu Lung (Bruce Lee), Chan Shing (Chris Chan), Cheung Hawk Kin (Hawkin Cheung) in 1955-57; Moy Yat, Ho Kam Ming in 1957-62; Tang Sang in 1963-65.

In 1967, Ip Man formed the Ving Tsun Athletic Association and was the first martial arts association registered as a limited company with the Hong Kong government. Ip Man was placed in charge of teaching Wing Chun there by the association. By now he has moved and lived at Tung Choi Street with one of his sons, Ip Ching, and his family. Ip Ching undertook to teach the students full time as his father's health was progressively failing. At his home, Ip Man passed away on 1st December, 1972 at the age of seventy-nine.

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee's chinese name was Lee Jun Fun. He joined Ip Man's Wing Chun classes in the period 1955-57. Bruce was given dedicated coaching in Wing Chun by his teacher. With the help of his senior class mates he progressed very quickly and was able to take up challenges from outside the school. He did not complete his studies in Wing Chun from Ip Man before departing for the U.S.A. In 1964 Bruce returned to Hong Kong with the wish of learning more Wing Chun from his teacher. When he returned to the U.S.A. he felt that he needed more knowledge in martial arts to cope with the confrontations he was encountering in his new home country. This marked the beginning of his development into Jeet Kuen Do, the Way of the Intercepting Fist.

Copyright Evergreen HQ Kho 2004, All Rights Reserved.